Scotland is a country addicted to football. Photographer Toby Binder’s revealing picture documentary shows the game has no boundaries.
“This is about the social influence of football on the whole Scottish nation,” he says. “Throughout all religious groups or social layers.”
Toby Binder’s pictures, taken in 2004, illustrate perfectly the place football has in the hearts of young Scots, and the role it plays in their lives.
“There is no other nation in Europe suffering a larger gap between passion created expectations on the one hand and success – or, better, failure – on the other,” he said.
Brought up in Germany, Binder came to Scotland for the first time in 1996 and was fascinated by the enthusiasm of the Scots for football, and its importance in the community, despite the country’s lack of success at international level.
“This immediately excited me, because for me it represents the essence of sport and therefore also teaches for life: you don’t have to be successful to love something or feel passion for it!”
He spent a lot of time in the typical working-class districts of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, photographing the youngsters who were always kicking a ball around.
Binder, who describes himself as a Scottish Argentinian, is actually from Stuttgart, growing up 20 minutes from the VfB Stuttgart ground, who he has supported since childhood.
“Players like Jürgen Klinsmann were my absolute heroes as a schoolchild, or the generation that included Philipp Lahm who beat Man Utd in 2003,” he recalled. “Most recently, players like Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira. After that it becomes more difficult as players like Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner – real Stuttgart boys – were bought away very quickly by bigger clubs.”
He did, though, see first hand the player he regards as the greatest ever. Diego Maradona when Stuttgart met Napoli in the 1989 UEFA cup final.
“I played football at our local club since I was five,” he said, “And although the whole marketing madness with jerseys didn’t exist back then, we kids naturally imitated the big teams.
“I had a self-made VfB jersey, a white T-shirt on which my mother sewed the emblem and I drew the red breast ring with a crayon… so of course it was the greatest thing to go to the stadium myself!
“Today they run around in Bayern, Barcelona or Paris shirts. Just because these are the big successful teams, but they will probably never see them live in the stadium or meet the players on the streets, I don’t understand that.”
Describing himself as “romantically nostalgic”, Binder photographed the project with an analogue medium format camera, a Mamiya 645, on black and white film.
“As a documentary photographer, you have the opportunity to draw attention to grievances and to awaken empathy and understanding for the underprivileged,” he said.
“I believe that as a photographer you also have the opportunity to change things.
“On the other hand, it is really my own interest, the experience and contact with these people. A friend of mine once said that I probably sometimes go out even without film in my camera… “
Toby Binder’s pictures are living proof of football’s role in society, and Scotland provides the perfect setting.
A selection of Toby’s prints are available from the British Culture Archive.